The Bruins held spring practice #13 this morning, but all of the talk afterward was about the future of Bruins football.
This is probably my favorite interview with Mora. Part of that was hearing about the exciting innovations the Bruins have added to practice and are looking at adding for the future, and how excited Coach Mora was about those prospects. Part of it was the way Coach Mora is being so supportive of all our Bruins entering the NFL draft beginning tomorrow by talking up every player by name and how involved and excited he is for their futures. And the best part was Mora's discussion about new facilities and why athletes should pick U.C.L.A. for their future over any other school (and it did not just have to do with the facilities).
Mora started off with a brief update. Today's practice was the last hard practice in pads. The players will not be in pads tomorrow and the final spring activity will be the Spring Game on Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Coach Mora and the staff want 50,000 fans there. Make it happen, Bruins!
Mora opened the interview by noting that Kylie Fitts, Keenan Graham, and Colby Cybert were back at practice today, and that Ellis McCarthy was taking part in individual drills. He later spoke how Damien Thigpen is progressing in his rehab.
He's coming along. He runs with Coach Alosi. When he runs, he looks good. When he decelerates there is still a little bit of a limp. At that position, probably more than any position on the field, if there's hesitancy in a running back and the things their body has to do and the hits that they have to take, if there's any hesitancy at all, I think you really expose the kid to further injury. I know he's working hard and he's pushing it. There's going to be some mental barriers he has to get through, as well. When he does, we'll get him back out there. And we'll ease him back in the way he's supposed to be eased back in. I think he'll have a great year for us. He's working his tail off.
The interview then turned all South Campus high tech as Mora and the media discussed the new technology the Bruins are using at practice now, and when they are looking forward to in the future.
The Bruins unveiled CoachCommTempo, a new integrated computer timer/organizer/PA system that the Bruins are using to organize practice. The coaches are using it to script the practice schedule, run game and play clocks, provide crowd noise or music, and allow the coaches to speak through the system. Mora noted that the product had been pitched to them for a while, and after talking to several other coaches who use it, they felt that it would make practice more efficient. There was a LOL moment when Chris Foster joked whether the system, which looks like big concert PA on trailers, came with roadies. Mora shot right back that Foster could be the roadie, since he dresses like one and looks like one. Seriously, put Foster in black cargo shorts and hang a roll of duct tape from his belt and he looks exactly like every roadie I've ever seen. Without being a commercial, you can see more about the product here at their website. Look and listen for it at the Bruins practices, and get Mora to put some Alter Bridge in the playlist.
The next high tech issue Mora discussed was a camera they are using to "see" what their QB's are seeing. It wasn't discussed specifically, but it sounds very much like they are using a GoPro type of camera on Hundley's helmet, and the coaches are reviewing the camera shots to see where Hundley is looking, how he is going through his progressions, and how long he is taking on each receiver. The audio also lets them listen to his calls, checks, and audibles at the line. Screw the NFL RedZone package, I want my HundleyCam channel.
[Update: Coach Mora just tweeted this YouTube vid from Hundley Cam. Want to see what it looks like when Anthony Barr crashes inside and is coming for you? Barr lines up on the left. No. 11 in white...Look fast! Cassius Marsh is bearing down from the opposite side, too.]
The next step, according to Mora, are drones over Spaulding. Mora discussed a new product that is essentially a miniature helicopter mounted camera that they can hover over the field to get another point of view at practice, pointing out that the overhead view give better perception of depth between players that can't always be appreciated from sideline or end zone cameras, even when they are elevated on the towers around the field. Mora added that there is no budget for his new toy, and that it was his job to go out and raise money.
This led to a question on future updates to the current football facilities. Mora pointed out a few superficial touchups that will happen around the field such as some of the tarps and sheds that would get a makeover. But the big goal is still to get a football specific facility.
Until we get our new facility, which hopefully we can break ground on within a year, we're going to utilize what we have. It's a great facility. Does it have all the bells and whistles that other places have? Maybe not, but it's so convenient. Having our football facility right in the middle of campus is a huge advantage to us. Our guys don't have to go off campus to find the coaches. The coaches are always around and you can't underestimate that. I would rather have less room and have our players around us than have more space and have then have to come find us or have us go find them.
Mora was asked about fundraising and timing of the planned new football building (emphasis mine)
I'm hopeful that we can get something going quickly. I think it's something that we need. But until we get it, it's certainly functional.
Foster then pressed about the importance of the facilities for recruiting. Mora agreed that facilities are important on the surface, but that the right kind of kids are looking beyond that, and that U.C.L.A. had more to offer those kids than other places.
Recruits look at uniforms and they look at facilities. They look at those things. But I would think if it's the right kind of kid, and he's got the right kind of guidance, that ultimately they're going to look at what kind of education they're going to get, what kind of men they're going too be around, as their mentors, their coaches, and they should all enter this world with the thought that they're going to go play pro football so who can help them advance to that. So get your degree, have a chance to go on and have success playing the game that you love. The world, meaning college football and coming to UCLA. The facilities, they're important to a certain extent. But the kids that you really want look beyond the facilities and they say, "Ok, can these guys make me a better man, can they make me a better player, can they help me have success in life?" And I feel like that one of the reasons we've been able to have the success we have had in recruiting is we've got those elements here. Plus, we've got an amazing campus in an amazing part of town. We've got all the elements.
The talk then steered to the future of our Bruin seniors and tomorrow night's NFL draft .
I'm so excited for those guys. I know that Datone, a lot of people are projecting him towards the end of the first round, I hope that happens. I think there are a couple teams that are really interested. I've been getting a lot of phone calls from head coaches the last week. Johnathan Franklin, what's happened with Johnathan is people have seen his performance on the field, but they've gotten a chance to meet him now, bring him in for workouts, come out here and work him out, so they've realized what a great character kid he is. Jeff Baca I think is going to be drafted, I don't know what round, but I think higher than people think...
I think Jeff Locke will get drafted. I think that Joe Fauria is going to get drafted. I'm not sure where he's going to get drafted. I think there are teams that have offenses that are set up for him and some that aren't...I think there's a chance that one of the corners (Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester) sneaks in and gets drafted, but if they don't I think they'll be high priority free agents for most teams.
I think Jerry Johnson will be a high priority free agent. I think that Kevin McDermott being a snapper probably won't get drafted. But we've had probably 15 teams at least come through and work him out and every single coach has told me the same thing - he's the best snapper in college football coming out this year
Mora also mentioned David Allen, Dalton Hilliard, Donovan Carter, and Brett Downey as under-the-radar players who should get a look as undrafted free agents.
I'm going to make myself very available the last two days of the draft to phone calls from people that want to know about some of these guys they maybe don't have information on.
As soon as the draft's over, if our guys aren't drafted, my job now is now to get on the phone and call teams and get David Allen a tryout, and get, maybe Brett Downey gets a tryout. At least a tryout if not in camp.
Watch the interview beginning around 10;05 of the video. You can see the enthusiasm on his face when talking about his players and their prospects, and the intensity when he discusses how hard he is going to work to help these kids get a shot with the NFL. Mora and his staff have been capitalizing on their NFL backgrounds to get the kids spots in all-star games, make contacts with NFL teams, and prepare them for what exactly pro teams are looking for.
I want our kids to show they are responsible adults who you can count on if you draft them...Everything is a test. Everything is an audition. What they wear walking through that gate to have a workout with a pro coach is an audition. They're being evaluated in every single way. These teams are about pump millions of dollars into them. First of all, our guys are classy kids to start with, so it's not like it's been a big project. But just for me, having the NFL experience and being able to tell them what they're looking for and what they're looking at and how they're evaluating you, it's been great. I love that part of the job.
Thanks to Edward Lewis with BruinSports Report for the video
via BSR TV on YouTube
The Bruins will hold their final spring practice tomorrow morning at 7 am.